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Mental Health Center

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'Obamacare' and Mental Health

Easier access, coverage for pre-existing conditions among some of the benefits cited


The financial aid provisions and the expansion of Medicaid should be a boon to a host of people with mental health issues, according to NAMI.

"There are a high percentage of people that have a diagnosable mental illness living below the poverty line," Sperling said.

However, many of the rules people in the mental health community aren't fond of, such as prior authorization for treatment and a specified number of allowed treatment sessions, were not changed by the health-care law.

"Evidence-based practice does have standard lengths of time for support," Lindau said. "Someone may be in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and evidence may suggest that 12 weeks is the standard, and once someone is out of the extreme crisis, group treatment may be an option."

Though some want no limits on the number of treatments available for someone with a mental health disorder, the law now mandates that all insurers offer a length of treatment that's on par with what's available for other health issues.

"It's like someone who's diagnosed with diabetes," Lindau said. "In the beginning, the treatment and education is very intense, and after time there are fewer appointments."

The bottom line on the Affordable Care Act, according to Sperling, is that "many people will be able to get new coverage or will see insurance coverage for mental health improve substantially."

As Lindau noted, "right now, people often wait until things are really terrible, and then they need additional help." But many of the difficulties people have faced in getting mental health care reimbursement should diminish, if not disappear, as the health-care law goes into full effect. "I think it's going to be a great thing," she said.

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